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CARZ FOR GIRLZ: Helping Mom (or Dad) Choose the Next Family Car



By Ilsye Gordon & Friends

Does your forecast call for a future without a brand new Ford Mustang, but rather a more practical sedan or crossover? As mom (or dad) gets geared up to pick out a new car, it seems your opinions about owing your own are taking the backseat. But your enthusiasm is your weapon: All that driving practice, your legal age creeping up, and the car-site cruising (and I expect you've been checking out all The Auto Channel'sNew Car Buyers Guidehas to offer), makes you the best car saleslady in town. So slick …

Put your valuable car knowledge to good use, girl! So what if the headlights aren't necessarily focused on you and all about what kind of keys you'd like to be holding in your hand – you still can have A LOT of say about the next family car. After all, chances are the ride could end up becoming yours!

Don't be afraid to test-drive a lot of cars. You have to test for all the little things: do the seats fold back well; is the engine loud; does the car handle turns securely; does it have enough cup holders. Don't feel bad about taking your time to drive on highways, byways, and back roads. And the more family you pack in the car, the better, as more opinions actually are welcomed in a situation like this.

Help your family create a car wish list. Focus on what mom or dad say are must-have vehicle attributes. For example, pay attention to safety, engine and transmission components. Do you want 4-wheel drive? Or are you looking for a gas-saver? Are leather seats a must, along with Bluetooth or an upgraded, 12-speaker audio system? Stick to your top five, and make the car FIT YOU, not the other way around.

Keep on open mind about the shape. The Forester used to look a little funky until the new 2009 crossover model took Motor Trend's Best SUV of the Year Award. Don't harbor a bias about a shape – the BMW Mini is about the size of a Honda Fit. Also, don't be so sure just because you love the exterior you'll fall in love with the interior. You spend the majority of your time INSIDE the car, love.

Be real about what kind of driving you do. Does the family drive in snow only a few times in the winter? Or do you have your eye on snagging the car to snowboard every opportunity you get? This might mean the difference between getting or forgoing a 4-wheel or all-wheel drive transmission.

Green looks good on all of you. A new car is an opportunity to create a family that cares about the environment. Some realistic and functional alternative energy cars include hybrids, cars using ethanol 85 (E85), fuel-flexible vehicles (FFV) and diesel or bio-diesel. Just one carbon dioxide (or CO2) molecule, which is what cars emit, stays airborne for over a century and is warms depletes the Earth's protective ozone layer. Yuck!

Car Finance 101 is for real. Now is your time to learn about the real cost of a new car. There's a lot to take into consideration: down payments, the interest rate on the car loan, insurance costs, registration fees, regular maintenance, car washes, car accessories and gas, to say the least. Learn to do the calculations – owning your own car doesn't look so scary when you figure out how you can realistic do it.

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More to come, I promise.